Moths in the Noctuidae family 3, 1, 2

Thysania agrippina, the birdwing moth

Thysania agrippina, Birdwing moth, ghost moth, great grey wotch, great owlet moth

Thysania agrippina, above, has many common names, the Birdwing moth, the ghost moth, the Great grey witch, and the Great owlet moth. At 27 - 28 cm it has the biggest wingspan of any moth, and one individual reportedly reached 30 cm.

It is found in Mexico, Central and South America, and sometimes as far north as Texas.

The female lays her eggs in loosely spaced groups or singly on or near the foodplant, which is the India rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis. The eggs hatch in April.

Grey dagger, Acronicta psi, Apatele psi

The grey dagger is common throughout Europe and the British isles, and found in most habitats especially woodlands, hedgerows and gardens. There is one generation a year, though there may be 2 generations in the south.

Eggs are laid singly on the foodplant (see caterpillar) leaves in July or August, and hatch in a week.

Grey dagger caterpillar, Acronicta psi caterpillar on blackcurrant leaf

The caterpillar (see above) is blue/grey with a yellow stripe down its back, and white below the spiracles, red spots above, a black head, a spike on its back just after the true legs, and another spike or hump just before the last pair of prolegs. Foodplants include birch, alder, hawthorn, blackthorn, plum, pear, apple, and many others. Length is up to 38 mm. They feed from August until October.

They pupate in a silk cocoon in the cracks of bark, in rotten wood or in the soil.

Grey dagger, Acronicta psi

Adults emerge the following year in June. Adult length at rest is 17 - 20 mm, and the wingspan is 30 - 42 mm. It is very similar to the Dark dagger, Acronicta tridens.

Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, Noctua janthe

Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, Noctua janthe

The Lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, Noctua janthe, above is a fairly common moth throughout Great Britain and Europe, found in woodland, hedgerows, gardens, heaths and moors.

The fore wing length is 16 - 20 mm. Adults fly from July to September. Eggs are laid in August. The caterpillar (length up to 40 mm) feeds at night on white dead-nettle, dock, mayweed, arum lily, and will climb up to get at the young leaves of sallow, hawthorn and blackthorn.and hides in leaf litter during the day. It pupates underground in May. Adults emerge in July. There is one generation a year.

Sallow, Xanthia icteritia

Sallow, Xanthia icteritia

Above is the Sallow, Xanthia icteritia, It is fairly widespread throught Europe and common in the British Isles, on damp woodland, heaths and moors, and wherever its foodplans grow.

There is one generation per year. Brown eggs are laid singly or in a short row in autumn near the buds of the foodplant, and are then covered with hairs from the female's abdomen. The eggs hatch in spring. The caterpillar feeds in the catkins at first, then moves on to the leaves. It may descend to eat the leaves of other, low-growing plants. The caterpillar length is up to 30 mm, and it feeds on goat willow, grey sallow and black poplar. In June it makes a cocoon underground and pupates. Adults emerge in August or September. Forewing length is 14 - 17 mm. Markings can vary. It flies from August to October. the adult drinks nectar from ivy and over-ripe blackberries.